While it is difficult to assess a pre-season performance against a team as bad as Seattle, the Minnesota Vikings can be secure in knowing that the game revealed both weaknesses and strengths of this year's team.
The bad included the play of the offensive line--particularly the starting left tackle, Charlie Johnson. One series after Jared Allen inexplicably failed to rap up the much slighter Tarvaris Jackson on a broken play that left the Vikings' defensive end alone against the Seattle quarterback, Seattle's Raheem Brock made good on a similar opportunity when Johnson failed to pick up Brock--or even acknowledge his existence.
The bad also included an offense that still more closely resembles a Childress offense, but without any semblance of a deep threat. For the game, the Vikings did amass 142 rushing yards, include a nice 35-yard touchdown run by rookie Tristan Davis. But the Vikings' first team compiled a mere 16 yards of that 142 yards in nearly one half of play and failed to finish an otherwise good drive from deep in their own end, using one play in the final set of downs to run Peterson up the middle when Seattle had shown weakness on both edges in the drive.
And the bad included an offense that mustered a mere six points in the first half and thirteen for the game against a Seattle defense that was among the worst in the NFL last season. The Vikings and their cheerleaders can continue to insist that the Vikings are waiting until the regular season to unwrap the offense, but what's to unwrap. This is a short-passing, quick-hit offense without a deep-threat to make the short-game the threat that it could be. Absent the deep threat, and with continued issues on the left side of the offensive line, this offense will continue to struggle, particularly in the red zone.
While some significant issues linger for the Vikings, some other sources of concern abated, albeit in the face of woeful competition. Against Jackson, for whom it should now be clear that the NFL is not long, the Vikings were able to apply significant pressure and turn a pick into six. Jackson was scrambling most of his time in the game and that pressure made the Viking's secondary look fairly good.
The secondary looked even better, even accounting for the quarterback and the pressure up front, when former Gopher Marcus Sherels was in the game. It has been some time since the Vikings had a corner with Sherels' speed. Sherels displayed this speed on his pick for a touchdown, but, equally impressive, showed an ability to hold onto an easy pick and a penchant for being in on the play--all attributes that most Vikings' cornerbacks have been lacking since at least the Denny Green era.
McNabb also looked better this week, still missing on some open plays, but showing less rust than last week and moving the Vikings down field from their own one-yard-line. McNabb was not spectacular, but if he continues to show progress into the regular season the Vikings will be vindicated, if they have not already been, in picking up the hard-to-believe-he-is-only-34 veteran.
Along with the bad and the good, there were some mixed signs on Saturday. Those included a run defense that allowed 150 yards against a weak Seattle offensive line and running game, but which ceded only 23 yards in the first half, when both teams had their starting units in the game, and which stuffed Seattle on four attempts inside the five-yard-line--albeit with the significant assistance of Darrell Bevell's familiar play-calling.
There also was the play of Christian Ponder who, at times, looked awful--as when he attempted to pitch the ball into a sea of players or when he struggled to throw with the pocket collapsing--but who also appeared to be on track to being a legitimate NFL quarterback when he rolled out of the pocket and found receivers in stride, when his reportedly "weak" arm rifled a pass across the field, and when his reportedly "average" speed beat a corner to the sideline for a good--and safe--gain.
Although it is difficult to assess certain aspects of a pre-season game against a weak opponent, it is safe to say that, at the mid-way point of the pre-season, the Vikings have strong concerns at left offensive tackle, at defensive tackle, and at wide-receiver. Whether the lack of a pressing concern at cornerback and safety is the consequence of young players showing promise or the opposition being minimal likely will be answered next week against the Dallas Cowboys in a game in which both teams probably will play their starters for at least three quarters.
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